5 Ways Hiding Your Social Presence Hurts You


It’s 2011. Brands are blogging, they’re tweeting, they’re Facebooking they’re FourSquare’ing and they’re altogether joining the party. All signs point to the fact that they “get” this. That they understand the place social media has in their marketing efforts and the importance of giving customers the content that they want, where they want it. And that’s great. Or you think it is until you hear that 56 percent of Fortune 50s are still hiding their social media activity.

What gives?

Over at Ad Age, B.L. Ochman shares some rather disheartening statistics about how forthcoming big brands are (or, are not) with their social media involvement. It looks something like this:

  • 44 percent of Fortune 50 companies display homepage social media links
  • 40 percent display a Twitter icon
  • 30 percent display Facebook icons
  • 4 percent display blog links

I’ve gotta say, it feels a little like they’re purposely hiding. And as fun as it is to pick on big brands (mostly because they deserve it), they’re not alone in this. We’re often being introduced to small and medium-sized businesses that fail victim to the very same mistake. They dedicate resources to social media and then banish these accounts to their inside pages (if at all) so you need a Masters in Internet Stalking to find them.

I get the fear, but it has to stop. Below are 5 reasons you must stop hiding your social media accounts TODAY.

Your fear is not a shield

Hey, I get it. There’s a huge difference between starting a blog and actually telling people you’ve started a blog. When you tell someone about it, it invites them to join the conversation. It brings more eyes to what you’re doing, more pressure to make it great, and it opens up more of an opportunity for someone to tell you you’re doing it wrong and to call you a flying idiot. But you need to get over that. As we talked about here once before, ignoring social media makes you mute, not invisible. If you’re lucky, people are talking about you anyway. By engaging in the conversation and TELLING people you’re engaging, it gives you a place to house conversations and a place for them come get to know you better. You’ve already decided this is important to you or you wouldn’t have entered social media in the first place. So stop being shy and introduce yourself to your new friends.

You can’t leverage a bridge you haven’t built

A lot of bloggers and social media experts spend a lot of time talking about the value behind social media. How it’s one of the fastest growing lead generation tools, that it rocks for customer support, that it can pull you out of a disaster – but it can only do that if you’ve built it up first. If you’ve been proactive about making sure your customers know your blog exists and that THIS is where they should go for trusted information about your brand. Your Twitter account can only benefit your company if customers KNOW they should be following you for updates, promotions and important news. In order for these tools to work, people need to be tuned into them. And that starts by you making them as prominent on your site as you can and yelling from the rooftops about their existence.

Customers want to be in control

More than ever, customers want to engage with your brand how THEY choose to do it. Not everyone wants to make time to visit your Web site every day. If you’re being forward-thinking enough to give them other options, make sure they know they exist. Let them know they can get your blog posts via RSS, via Twitter, via Facebook, etc. Let them know you house discussions on LinkedIn or that’s where they can go to learn about when you’re hiring. By highlighting your social media accounts, you give customers they tools they need to interact with you on their terms. People like that. Don’t hide it.

Showing us all your cards builds trust

When I land on the PETCO site and I see immediate links to connect with the company on Twitter, Facebook and their blog – I trust them more. I trust that this isn’t a faceless behemoth and that, if I have a problem with my order, I’ll be able to get in touch with them and I won’t be rerouted through 18 different channels until I end up pulling my hair out. It also allows me to become more familiar with the brand and see that their messaging is the same, regardless of the platform. It shows that they’re confident in what they’re doing that they’re willing to show off their social media face. It tells me that they care more about ME than their do their shareholders or legal department. All of these things help to build my trust level with their brand. And I wouldn’t have any of them if they were hiding the links to these accounts.

You help your own search engine optimization

Rhea would smack me if I didn’t at least pretend to care that by building up these social media accounts you help them to rank in the search engines, helping you assert more dominance and to control what’s ranking for your brand. By linking your accounts from your home page (and from one another) you make them all stronger. You may not care much about this right now, but you may the next time an unflattering news article makes its way up the ranks and you have nothing to counteract it with.

If you’re engaging in social media, you’re doing it because you know it’s important. So stop thinking of these accounts like red-headed stepchildren and start showing them off.

What does it mean to stop hiding your brand in social media? It means:

  • Linking your social media accounts from your home page and from other prominent places on your Web site.
  • Including links to your social media accounts from email newsletters.
  • Displaying your latest blog posts from your home page.
  • Putting your Twitter handle and Facebook URL on your business card and other promotional materials.
  • Cross-promote your accounts whenever it makes sense.

Your customers are looking for these accounts. Make ‘em front and center.

Your Comments

  • Gabriele Maidecchi

    My impression is that social media is sort of imposed to most brands. They don’t like it, at all, heck executives hate not to be in control of this stuff, and social media isn’t really something you can control. They have to participate, but they choose to do it in a “stealth” way, dedicating limited resources to it (enough to have a presence, not enough to make it count) and they hope it’ll be enough to make customer see “they care”.
    Do you feel the same?

    • Lisa Barone

      I can definitely see larger brands taking that stance. They begrudgingly accept the fact they need to be there, so they create the accounts going through the motions, hoping it’s enough. It’s not. And it creates a huge disconnect.

      For small companies, I think it’s more fear that they’re “doing it wrong” than anything else. They’re not sure they’ve totally gotten the hang of this “twitter thing” yet so they don’t tell anyone about it. They wait until the accounts are “successful”. However, it’s hard to build a following when you’re not telling anyone you’re around to be their friend. :)

  • Maciej

    Nobody should be hiding from social media in todays online marketplace. Why would you want to hide from the people that can help grow your business? If a company is scared than they need to put someone in the drivers seat that wants to dive in and start chatting and sharing.

    • Lisa Barone

      I completely agree! Especially with larger brands, you’d think they’d have the budgets to hire someone to handle their social media FOR them if they were so against doing it themselves. I agree – there’s no excuse today for hiding from social media, especially if you HAVE the accounts and you’re just not showing them off.

  • David Hartstein

    Very nice article Lisa. I particularly agree with point #2, that you can’t leverage a bridge you haven’t built. I think this not only applies to having the system in place, but also being confident and comfortable enough to use it in a savvy way. It will be really tough to use any social media component in a crisis moment if you are not practiced in doing so.

    Thanks again for the post. Really enjoyed it.

  • dean

    RE: “When I land on the PETCO site and I see immediate links to connect with the company on Twitter, Facebook and their blog – I trust them more.” Really??? Its as simple as throwing up some chicklets to gain someones trust?? Geez, I thought that was done by how a company conducts itself day to day over time. I didn’t realize it was just a matter of throwing your social media accounts on the homepage. BP.com also has its social media accounts on the homepage. Does that mean I should trust them more?

  • Promod Sharma | @mActuary

    Thanks for this post, Lisa. Hiding from transparency makes companies visible … in a bad light. Hiding prevents current and potential customers from paying a company … with attention.

    I like the line “You can’t leverage a bridge you haven’t built”. Well put.

  • Nick Norris

    “ignoring social media makes you mute, not invisible” – I like that. As a social media guy for a Fortune 50 that has fully embraced social media, I think this point stands on its own.

  • Jamie Fairbairn

    I think for big businesses with the resources to engage on all social media platforms it’s a poor show that many of them are in ‘hiding’.

    Whether they like it or not, a large percentage of potential customers are active online. Would they open up an offline store and just put a few signs up but not have any staff on hand to help and advise?